The AAUP Straw-Man Statement

If anyone hasn’t realized that the new AAUP Statement on academic freedom is a sham, then there are two excellent means to inform yourself today.

First, Erin O’Connor’s new piece here at the site, on the AAUP’s ducking of almost every serious complaint to which it pretends to respond.

A small but telling indicator of the larger problem: When interviewed about the statement by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nelson said that it is ultimately designed to encourage professors to say to outside critics, “Don’t mess with me.” In other words – by Nelson’s own admission- it’s less a rigorously reasoned policy statement than it is a confrontational ultimatum disguised as a policy statement.

Those additionally interested in the topic should look to Peter Wood and Stephen Balch’s voluminous response (Erin also mentions it) on the NAS site.

The AAUP report omits the most serious questions posed about professorial abuses, and provides warm examples of non-offensive behavior. Both Erin and Peter cite what’s surely the statement’s most ridiculous construction of farcical criticism:

There is, however, a large universe of facts, theories, and models that are arguably relevant to a subject of instruction but that need not be taught. Assessments of George Eliot’s novel Daniel Deronda might be relevant to a course on her Middlemarch, but it is not a dereliction of professional standards to fail to discuss Daniel Deronda in class. What facts, theories, and models an instructor chooses to bring into the classroom depends upon the instructor’s sense of pedagogical dynamics and purpose.

It would be interesting to live in a world where the omission of Daniel Deronda from a curriculum was the greatest threat to classroom professionalism – the AAUP knows this example is worlds away from the criticism that professors actually receive. They’ve chosen to dodge all of that – read more on their non-response in both of the pieces above.


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